Wharfedale broke their losing streak in a match that saw Old Albanian pick up four yellow cards. O.A’s Head Coach, Andy Holloway, was impressed by the way Dale stuck to their game plan and did what they know they can do and did it well.
The St. Albans side had the lion’s share of the ball early on. Dale surrendered field position with a knock on and then failing to find touch with a relieving penalty. The visitors took a well deserved lead when good support play led to a try by Andrew Berry which Daniel Watt converted.
From the restart another poor kick from Dale led to more self imposed pressure. This time OA’s were guilty of spilling the ball and giving Wharfedale a scrum on Dale’s 22 metre line. Two penalties and two good line outs later the Greens accepted a kickable penalty which Lloyd Davies put over.
There was not much flowing rugby in evidence and a fussy official slowed play down. Every scrum seemed to take an age to start and it was some time before the packs were allowed to compete. Both sides were making mistakes and the penalty count was growing. Both sides were given a long lecture about technical offences.
A 38 metre penalty from Daniel Watt was missed before a jinking run from Taylor Prell brought some warmth to the spectators. His chip ahead would probably have led to a try until he was impeded by OA’s No 8, Samuel Lunnon, who received the visitors’ first yellow.
Wharfedale opted for the scrum but gave away a free kick for an early push. The southerners took a quick tap and made good ground before the game had to stop for a serious injury to Albanian No 10, William Magie. Magie was clapped off the pitch and all at the Avenue wish him a speedy recovery.
From the scrum restart OA’s kicked the ball and allowed Taylor Prell another chance to show his paces. A promising move ended with another knock on and a scrum to the visitors on half way.
The situation was rescued by a powerful tackle in midfield by Adam Howard who forced a knock on.
The scrum saw the Green Machine crank up the gears and win a penalty. James Doherty quickly tapped and ran putting the defence onto the back foot and gaining another penalty.
A try looked certain until a deliberate knock on from Oliver Marchon was greeted with a second yellow card for the visitors.
Dale opted for an attacking scrum and soon were rewarded with a penalty try. Davies slotted the extra two to give Dale a 10-7 lead.
Missed tackles in midfield gave the Southerners field position and a free run on the blind side by Michael Allan gave Old Albanian a 10-12 lead at half time.
Adam Howard was sin binned for a dangerous tackle early in the second half and Old Albanian soon made Wharfedale pay with fine handling and running which put Allan in for an unconverted try.
Without Howard Wharfedale’s pack creaked for the first time in the game but after Allan’s effort Dale held out.
When Howard rejoined the fray, with new props, Matthew Freeman and Jo Altham replacing Matthew Beesley and Jake Armstrong, and a growing noise from the crowd, Wharfedale played their best rugby of the afternoon. There was now a sense of urgency in the play and a sense that victory was there for the taking.
OA’s third yellow card was given to Jordi Pasqualin after 56 minutes. Good work from the Dale pack, and then James Doherty, put Cameron Hudson over for a converted try, tying the scores at 17 all, setting up a thrilling finish.
On 62 minutes OA’s Oliver Cooper-Miller was penalised for a technical offence and sent to the sin bin. Lloyd Davies pulled his penalty attempt wide and kept the tension going.
Dale’s pack was now dominant and the winning score was achieved with a push over try, scored by Star Man Jack Barnard, from a five metre scrum.
Barnard just edged the Rugby Paper mention but there were outstanding performances from many players. The front row had one of their best days this season, and the change of personnel, superbly timed by the management, maintained the standard. Jim Mason grew in confidence in the line out and was responsible for disrupting the opposition’s ball on two occasions. James Doherty was a constant threat behind the pack and his kicking out of hand was clever and meant the visitors were often pushed back into their own half.
Skipper, James Doherty, was more upbeat than last week and said “The last few weeks have been tough to take, but this weekend we saw by no means a complete performance but it was a huge effort from all involved, great physicality and a gutsy, passionate display.
Special mention for our pack who were outstanding throughout and the scrum is a thing of beauty when used like that. It’s nice to get on the right side of the result and let’s hope we can kick on from this. The avenue was electric in the last 20 and it really gave us all a boost.”
Veteran prop, attending as a spectator, Neil Dickenson, commented after the game “Not a classic, but we’ll take it”
Andy Holloway, Old Albanian’s coach, reflected that “we were our own worst enemy. Dale deserved to win the game”, but he wondered what could have been if his side had more discipline.
Wharfedale: Taylor Prell; Josh Prell, Cameron Hudson, Tom Davidson (Harry Bullough 76), Oli Cicognini; Lloyd Davies, James Doherty (c); Matt Beesley (Joe Altham 52), Ian Larkin (Dan Stockdale 79), Jake Armstrong (Mat Freeman), Adam Howard, Simon Willet, Jack Barnard, Dan Solomi, Jim Mason. Replacement not used Alex Powell